Reading Murray’s argument using Hayot’s template of Uneven U Structure

November 8th, 2016

One of the motivating moves by which Murray opens up his discussion of “Bartleby the Scrivener” is by framing his analysis in a way that shows how studying the specific case of Bartleby can provide a radical understanding of autistic presence. The fact that Murray picks a story that was written when autism wasn’t even recognized as a medical condition, points to the fact that even though Bartleby case may seem tangential at first glance, it is in fact the opposite; the story points to corporeality of Bartleby and how he cannot be reduced to a metaphor which is one of the main points of this chapter as whole.

I thought the Uneven U structure of a paragraph which Hayot describes was quite straightforward in the beginning, but it proved harder then I expected. Placing the entire argument of Murray’s into a fractal structure that Hayot describes was even more perplexing. But I will try. Murray’s claim can be divided into two sections which we can label as A and B with each section having their own set of subsections. Murray claims that Bartleby provides an example of autistic presence. This is our A. And once Bartleby’s essential difference is accepted, various narrative readings can be applied to understand the story.

The first paragraph of subset a, opens up with a combination of level 3 and level 2 statement. When Murray says “firstly, the details of Bartleby’s fictional autism” he is making a claim that Bartleby is autistic and also he is also establishing his claim in such a way so to provide direct evidence in the next line. He quotes in the next line which makes it a level 1 statement. Throughout this paragraph he is relying on concrete evidence from the text to assert his claim about Bartleby. I found that most of the paragraph didn’t necessarily followed the uneven u structure. Like in this example the paragraph didn’t open up with a general level 5 statement that slowly progressed to more concrete claims. So it was kind of confusing just categorizing each statement or paragraph and how it fit into the larger section A.

Similarly in subset of section B, Murray tackles with the fact how in narrative terms, the story is open to multiple interpretations.

 

Conflicting Takes on Christopher Boon’s Representation

November 1st, 2016

As the title of Greg Olear article asserts, Mark Haddon’s debut novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, perpetuates negative stereotypes of autistic individuals. Christopher Boon is characterized as apathetic, violent, painstakingly literal and cripplingly dependent on adult supervision. When Christopher is (falsely) informed that his mother had a heart attack, his response not only reveals how unaware he is of the emotional weight of the situation, but only shows his elitist or egoistic character- he would have liked to go to hospital because he likes hospitals. Even the unconscious content of his mind is shown to be filled with violent images of death; in his dreams the only people who survive are clever people like him. His response to human touch is quite extreme. He either screams or punches anyone who dares to touch him – even his father is not allowed to trespass that boundary.  Olear’s point is that it is not like there isn’t any literature available on autism, but because of the novel’s commercial success, autistic community will have to face the negative consequence from the image in which Christopher Boon is presented. Olear raises an interesting question, whether author should be responsible “to the dangers of irresponsible fiction?” (Page 4). It is quite difficult to argue with Olear’s points, that Christopher is characterized in a stereotypical fashion. But that is exactly what Mcinerney does in his article “The Remains of the Dog.”

Mcinerney claims that Haddon presents us with a character that is round, and life-like. He states, “Haddon manages to bring us deep inside Christopher’s mind and situates us comfortably within his limited, severely logical point of view, to the extent that we begin to question the common sense and the erratic emotionalism of the normal citizens who surround him, as well as our own intuitions and habits of perception” (Page 22). According to Mcinerney, Haddon does enough to show why Christopher is unable to engage, understand or participate in normal social intercourse. The reason why he is that way is because his mind is extremely logical as evidenced by the fact that Christopher considers the use of metaphors as lying. Plus Christopher is a young kid who has to contend with the messy and often illogical relationship of his parents. And as if that wasn’t enough, his father and mother keep secrets from him, which he discovers on his own. Mcinerney stresses, that the main mystery of the novel is to answer whether Christopher “is capable of change”, and that’s a central question that is explored in novels.

These two articles present different viewpoints on Haddon’s novel. Which one of them is right, well I will let you answer that.

 

Leapfrogging

October 25th, 2016

Murray, in his book Representing Autism, pushes back against the mainstream narrative that reduces autism to a condition that is explained by way of analogizing or understanding it in terms of metaphors. In the current cultural narrative, autism is explained by a set of criteria that are listed in DSM-IV. This kind of characterization reduces an autistic individual from having any agency and selfhood. One way Murray asserts his claim that “autism is constituted primarily is terms of individual and with differing individual emphases” is by showing how Baggs, Grandin, and Williams narratives provide a more diverse and subjective autistic presence. One of the strategies of contextualizing secondary sources that is mentioned in Gaipa’ reading is leapfrogging. Murray uses this strategy very effectively. Even though he admits that there might be some truth to the claim made by Mitchell and Snyder, Murray quickly asserts his position by pointing out the flaw in their argument.

Mitchell and Snyder believe that because Grandin acts as an insider, as an interpreter, who can explain autism to “normal” people, she “require legitimizing from a majority audience”(39), which is a stance that is poles apart from the one Braggs takes where “there’s nothing to understand, .. nothing to fix”(35). For Braggs, she is simple being herself, and autism isn’t a condition that needs fixing. So for Mitchell and Snyber, this tendency in Grandin’s writing to explain autism, makes her writing about a narrative of overcoming autistic barriers.

Murray, however, points out that Mitchel and Snyder’s postulation are too generalized and broad and doesn’t take into account most of what Grandin has to say in her autobiographies. Murray reveals that Grandin makes explicit in her writings that autism is not “a removable element of her being” (40). But Grandin is someone who can only function through autism.

Surrealist Images in Invisible Man and We Love You, Charlie Freeman.

October 11th, 2016

Both Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, and Kaitlyn Greenidge’s novel We Love You, Charlie Freeman, use surrealist images and scenarios to depict the psychological trauma of racism. It is quite clear that Greenidge believes as Ellison did, that in order to provide a more rounded perspective on how racism effects the individual psyche, one must look for an explanation that is not limited to understanding socio-economic conditions, but an explanation that also encompasses and helps elucidate the psychological effect of racism. And the only language that shines a light on the psychological aspect are images that shock, revolt, and repulse the reader. In short, images that seem totally unimaginable or surrealist.

The scene where Charlotte walks in on her mother breast feeding Charlie is one such example. And this scene is even more difficult to read when Ginny figures it out when she is there for the dinner. On page 219 Ginny says, “He lunged at her. And tried to eat from her. Like a baby would. She’s feeding him. She’s sick.”  The imagination freezes to even form a picture that is depicted by Greenidge because it is so repulsive and one’s whole body begins to recoil from tension. But why would Greenidge use such evocative imagery if not to show a part of Laurel’s psyche? What prompts Laurel to such drastic measures and to prove what? And I believe her diatribe to Charlotte when she is picking Charlotte up from Aida’s house is quite helpful in understanding Laurel’s mindset. She explains to Charlotte the significance of this experiment by emotionally rehearsing, “It’s realer than any history and it’s better than anything written in that book. It’s realer than anything this book could ever imagine” (Greenidge 181). Here we see Laurel completely dismissing her heritage, her history. By cutting ties to her past, she is essentially erasing her identity. So for Laurel, her actions are not just actions that suppose to reflect on her but the entire African-American race. And that is evident when she says, “you start in on this, you decide to make a statement and play the victim on this and it’s not just you who ends up hurt. You’re being selfish if you think it’s just you” (183).  And that is the problem of racism because the act is never seen as committed by an individual but by the entire race.

Ellison also evokes this kind of horror in the reader through his surrealist scenes. One cannot read Trueblood’s incestuous act without repulsion. And I think the purpose of such imagery is to show the psychological effect of racism.

Searching for Consciousness in our Evolutionary History

September 20th, 2016

Damasio proposes that we should search for an antecedent for consciousness in our evolutionary past. How did consciousness come into being? For Damasio, consciousness cannot exist without that something that is always present in the mind, that something that observes and is a witness to the proceeding of the mind. It is that which Eliot refers to as “hint half guessed.” We call that something extra, our self or “I.”

Tracing roots of consciousness in our evolutionary history requires Damasio to make certain assumptions. One, is that as our central nervous system progressively developed more complex neural pathways, it gave rise to mental images; Damasio reduces certain brain activity to mental images. Damasio suggests that for millions of years, different organisms were able to possess something equivalent to mind in their brain. But once we developed a self, a protagonist that could notice the events, did consciousness begin.

So to answer the question of how did organism develop consciousness, we have to first answer how did self come into being? Central to the construction of the conscious mind is the body, and more specifically the brain stem region. The brain stem is that part of the body that generates protoself that is foundation for the core self. This protoself generates neural patterns in the brain stem which give rise to primordial feelings. These primordial feelings allow for the development of more sophisticated core self.

Even though Damasio states that he is not reducing mind to brain, I just can’t seem to find any difference between him and Messenger. What does it matter if the core self or the autobiographical self is  developed in several regions of the brain working in concert to create the self? It seems to me as if Damsaio believes that just because we can’t pinpoint one single region of the brain as the originator of the self, we are somehow not reducing the mind to the brain. Damasio states that “no single mechanism explains consciousness in the brain, no single device, no single region… by one musician or even a few” (Damasio, 25). Still I feel that the framework upon which he builds his hypothesis is rather reductive. It just doesn’t account for qualia or allows room for other subjective experiences.

Your Brain is the Universe

September 6th, 2016

Both of Emily Dickinson’s poem seem to suggest that the brain contains the mind, the world that we see and everything in between. The title of the poem “I felt a Funeral in my Brain” implies that the funeral which the speaker is attending is actually a product of what is going on in the speakers’ brain. In the next stanza there is a leap from the brain to the mind. The procession of the funeral –  the beating of the drum, people moving to and fro – is now effecting the mind. And in the next stanza, the speaker dives even deeper, and now we enter another corridor of the mind, which takes us to the soul. So if we were to imagine this in a diagram it would look something like this:

 

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 8.56.47 PM

 

 

 

 

The brain encompasses both the mind and the soul. The same concept of the brain as being the source of all outward material projection is shown in her poem “The Brain is Wider Than the Sky.” The brain is the place that is vast enough to contain the sky and deep enough as the deepest sea. Emily Dickinson goes as far as to say that the brain is God. And somehow this reminds me of the Buddhist notion of the brain, which is that you are the universe.

In “Brain Implant # 3: Patterns” the epigraph asserts that cognitive function is determined by the firing of neurons in the brain. The poem, however, goes against this idea and shows how there is a complex interplay between thoughts and neuronal firings. And actually it may be the case that our thoughts determine how neurons transmit messages. An excerpt from Wikipedia is added to the poem that suggests that the intrusive thoughts are what produces the emotions like fear, uneasiness and apprehension.

In her poem Professor Hahn quotes Fuller who says, “each individual has a pattern integrity.” What does fuller mean by “pattern integrity?” A pattern can only exist when you have two or more units. An individual can only be understood in relational terms, and how that individual fits in relation to others.

 

A letter from Bats to Humans

September 2nd, 2016

Dear Sir,

This letter is a plea for a little bit of freedom.

For centuries we have been abused by your tyrannical existence. For centuries we have been shunned to caves, our homelands completely destroyed by your nightmarish inventions like pesticides. And now your are attempting to invade our brains. We will raise our fangs for this intrusion.

Allow me to dispel some misnomer that you have come up with over the years. But firstly let me begin by saying that we are of one family. We are both mammals. With this commonality between us, I will be honest with you and give you a slice of our history. In sixteenth century that accursed writer, William Shakespeare, whom you laud till this day, turned us into witch food. He made up this story of Macbeth, and in it the three witches use us as ingredients for their evil curses. Not only do witches don’t exist, but this narrative got so ingrained in the psyche of the humans that till this day some men hunts us down for the sole reason that they don’t want us to be used for magic. How considerate of them to think of our lives, but we can handle ourselves on our own.

Then comes the next century, and our ancestors didn’t fare any better. This time around the farmers had picked up their forks against us. We were eating pests and insects that were on the plants. Some farmer must have seen a bat, and blamed his low yield of crops on the poor soul. So we were driven out and our source of food was taken away from us. Now science comes along and claim that bats are necessary and biological exterminators for pest. Thanks science, but once again a little too late.

Here comes 21st century, and a new phenomenon has been put on our shoulders. Some unknown scientist, and I hope he remains unknown, dispersed this notion that we are prime carriers of ebola virus. And there you go, we are once again established stamped with the face of terror.

But even then we didn’t say anything. But now science has entered our brains. We can’t even think for ourselves. We see just the way as anyone else. Moon is moon is moon and sun is sun is sun. Screech is screech is screech. And owl is owl is owl. Quite simple. The noise that we make when we fly is not because we can’t see, but because, and I will admit that, we are terrible at flying. Evolution didn’t do us any favors there. So the screeches are always to the effect “get the fuck out of my way Jonny.”  We don’t believe in individuality, in case any of the sociologist inquire about it. And we certainly don’t believe in consciousness or self for that matter.

So dear Ban Ki-moon tell your people to stay the fuck out of our brains.

Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

 

Spokeperson for the Bats

 

P.S- Please don’t kill the messenger.

 

 

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